Special Category Visa

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A Special Category Visa is a type of Australian visa granted to most New Zealand citizens on arrival in Australia. New Zealand Citizens may then reside in Australia indefinitely under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement.


The Special Category Visa was introduced on 1 September 1994 by the Migration Regulations 1994. It is known as a subclass 444 visa. Prior to 1 September 1994, New Zealanders were generally treated as exempt non citizens in Australia.

Most New Zealanders are eligible for a Special Category Visa (SCV) except:

  • those with significant health problems
  • those with significant criminal records ie. being sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment combined in total
  • those who hold temporary or permanent Australian visas
  • those who arrive in Australia using another passport (e.g. if holding dual nationality). In this case an SCV can be obtained at a Department of Immigration office in Australia upon production of a valid New Zealand passport
  • those who arrive for specified purposes, such as diplomats and visiting forces, who are normally granted a special purpose visa.


The SCV is granted upon arrival to Australia. Unlike other non-citizens, New Zealanders do not require a visa before travelling to Australia. New Zealanders arriving in Australia are not told they have a visa and ordinarily their passports are not stamped. The SCV ceases when its holder departs Australia for any reason, but a new SCV is granted on return.

The SCV is technically classified as a temporary visa, despite its holders residence in Australia not being subject to any limitation as to time imposed by law.

Until 26 February 2001, SCV holders were generally treated the same as permanent visa holders; An SCV obtained on or prior to this date is classified as a 'Protected SCV' meaning the holder is eligible to most social security benefits without restriction. Beginning in 2001, Australia has introduced a number of laws that have dramatically changed the rights of SCV holders. Now, individuals who enter Australia after 26 February 2001 remain in Australia to live and work indefinitely are classed as a 'non-protected SCV' holder and have restricted access to social security benefits on this visa; e.g. A non-protected SCV holder that arrived post 2001 are eligible for a one-off 6 month unemployment benefit after 10 years of residence under the current rules April 2017, whereas a protected SCV holder retains the same rights as and definition of a permanent resident.

The changes in 2001 have resulted in two classes of SCV holders; those that arrived on or before the 2001 announcement (classed as protected-SCV) and those that arrived after (non-protected SCV).

Protected SCV holders are still eligible to apply for citizenship; they are automatically entitled to do so provided they meet character and health requirements; without first having to apply for permanent residency like a non-protected SCV holder.

Permanent Resident status[edit]

SCV holders fit the commonly understood meaning of the term 'permanent resident' as they are entitled to live in Australia indefinitely, in much the same way as an Australian citizen or a permanent visa holder. However, they are excluded from definitions of this term in some Australian legislation.

Even in federal migration and citizenship law, there is no standard definition of the term and SCV holders are treated inconsistently.

Section 204 of the Migration Act 1958 includes all SCV holders within the definition of 'permanent resident' on the basis they 'not subject to any limitation as to time imposed by law'.

The Migration Regulations 1994 exclude all SCV holders from the definition of 'Australian permanent resident', including only permanent visa holders within the definition.

The Australian Citizenship Act 2007 empowers the relevant minister to declare by legislative instrument whether SCV holders are permanent residents for the purpose of the act. The current legislative instrument includes some SCV holders, while excluding others.

Resident Return Visa[edit]

New Zealand citizens who entered Australia before 1 September 1994 (regardless of the purpose of entry) are considered a former Australian permanent resident, and so eligible to apply for a Resident Return Visa (RRV). An RRV can be issued to a former Australian permanent resident who wishes to restore his/her permanent residence status. Applicants must demonstrate 'substantial ties of benefit to Australia' and give compelling reasons for any continuous absences of 5 years or more (since their last stay in Australia as a 'permanent resident', i.e. as a New Zealand citizen entering before 1 September 1994).[1][2]

Additional pathway to permanent residence[edit]

SCV holders can apply for permanent residence through the 'additional pathway' if they were resident in Australia on or before 19 February 2016 and, at the time of application, have resided in Australia for at least 5 years. They must also submit income tax returns which show assessable income at least equivalent to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) for the 5 year period (unless they are 'particularly vulnerable'), and pass mandatory health, character and security checks. The application fee for primary applicants is AUD 3600 plus an additional AUD 1800 (per partner/dependent aged 18 or above)/AUD 900 (per dependent under the age of 18). Applications for permanent residence through the 'additional pathway' will be accepted starting from 1 July 2017.[3]

Cancellation of SCV visa[edit]

A SCV visa can be cancelled, normally as the result of criminal behaviour. SCV visa holders sentenced to imprisonment can expect to be liable for immediate deportion at the time of release.

See also[edit]


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